Tag Archives: Pentagon

The Real Reason Why Blackstone is Courting the Pentagon, by Whitney Webb

One of the Internet’s better journalists explains why one of America’s biggest investment management firms is pursuing artificial intelligence business. From Whitney Webb at thelastamericanvagabond.com:

The sudden push by Wall Street’s largest private equity firm to heavily lobby the Pentagon and State Department for largely unspecified reasons is part of an increasingly visible conflict within the U.S. establishment regarding how to handle the Artificial Intelligence “arms race.”

One of Wall Street’s largest private equity firms, the Blackstone Group, has been making a series of moves that have left mainstream analysts puzzled, with the most recent being Blackstone’s hire of David Urban, a Washington lobbyist with close ties to the Trump administration.

Blackstone’s courting of a Trump ally was not surprising given that the firm’s CEO, Steven Schwarzman, recently donated $3 million to Trump’s re-election efforts and had previously chaired the President’s now-defunct Strategic and Policy Forum of “business leaders” and advisors. The close ties that have developed between Schwarzman and Trump following the latter’s election in late 2016 have led mainstream media to describe Schwarzman as a confidant of the President.

However, what was odd about Blackstone’s hiring of David Urban was its murky reason for doing so, as the firm plans to task Urban with lobbying the Pentagon and State Department on “issues related to military preparedness and training.” This is odd, as CNBC noted, because Blackstone “doesn’t have any publicly listed government contracts, and its known investments don’t appear to have direct links to the defense industry.” However, Urban has extensive experience in dealing with both Departments in addition to his close ties to the current administration and the fundraising apparatus of the Republican Party.

While media reports on Blackstone’s recent hire of Urban were unable to elucidate the motive behind Blackstone’s sudden desire to court the Pentagon and State Department, they did note that Blackstone’s previous hire of a Trump-connected fundraiser lobbyist, Jeff Miller, had been remarkably successful earlier this year, with Miller lobbying Congress specifically on coronavirus relief legislation like the CARES Act. The CARES Act ultimately allowed private equity giants like Blackstone to access funds designated for coronavirus relief, likely thanks to the efforts of Miller and other lobbyists hired by Blackstone as well as other private equity giants like the Carlyle Group.

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A Most Convenient Virus, by Dmitry Orlov

Was the Pentagon or CIA responsible for the coronavirus? From Dmitry Orlov at cluborlov.com:

I prefer to write on things I know about, but once in a while an opportunity presents itself for me to comment on some aspect of widespread mistrust and confusion while resting on a solid foundation of my professional curiosity. This is the case of the 2019-nCoV novel coronavirus. A lot of the elements of the coronavirus story just don’t add up, and that’s what I want to explore. At the outset, I want to make it clear that I am no expert on these matters. Is 2019-nCoV a genetically engineered biological weapon or is it a naturally evolved strain of a virus that is endemic in China’s bat population? This we don’t know, but it is interesting to look at the plausibility of each of these scenarios and also to consider whether what we are observing could be a combination of a little of each.

As a biological weapon of mass destruction, 2019-nCoV isn’t particularly good. On the plus side, it is highly contagious and can be spread by infected individuals who are not showing any of the symptoms, such as fever and shortness of breath. On the minus side, the mortality rate is a mere 2.1% and is likely to trend down because this rate does not account for a potentially huge number of young, healthy people who contracted the virus but never developed any symptoms, were never tested for it, and will never know that they had survived it. For a virus to be potent as a bioweapon, its kill ratio needs to be optimized for killing the largest possible number of its victims, but doing so slowly enough so that ththe victims don’t die before they have a chance to spread the infection.

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Russia: Friend or Foe? by Jacob G. Hornberger

The Islamic terrorism justification for perma-war has worn very thin, so the military-industrial-intelligence complex has turned Russia into the existential threat de jour. From Jacob G. Hornberger at fff.org:

Ever since the end of the Cold War, it has been the mission of the U.S. national-security establishment to re-institute the relationship of hate, hostility, and fear that existed between the Soviet Union, especially Russia, and the United States during the Cold War.

That’s what the U.S. post-Cold War invigoration of NATO was all about, especially its absorption of former Warsaw Pact countries. It’s also what NATO’s attempt to absorb Ukraine, oust the Soviets from their long-established base in Crimea, and install U.S. missiles on Russia’s borders were all about.

It’s also what all the anti-Russia brouhaha has been all about. The aim has always been to reconvert Russia into an official enemy, adversary, opponent, and rival of the United States. What better way to keep the American people agitated and fearful? What better way to guarantee ever-increasing budgets for the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA, the three principal components of America’s deep state?

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The Destruction of American Liberty, by Jacob G. Hornberger

Americans are not free, not even close. From Jacob G. Hornberger at fff.org:

The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, were a watershed event for the United States, not only because of the large death toll and property destruction but, more important, because they spelled the death knell for American liberty.

Americans had already lost a large portion of their freedom when the federal government was converted into what is called a “welfare state,” a governmental system that is based on the concept of mandatory charity. Examples of mandatory-charity programs include Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, farm subsidies, education grants, corporate bailouts, foreign aid, and every other program by which the government takes money from people to whom it belongs and gives it to people to whom it does not belong.

There is no way to reconcile a system of mandatory charity with the principles of a free society. A genuinely free society is one in which people are free to keep everything they earn and decide for themselves what to do with their own money. An unfree society is one in which the government mandates that people be good and caring to others.

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Want To Save The Environment? De-Fund The Pentagon. By Caitlin Johnstone

The Pentagon is the world’s biggest polluter, and that’s even before you have to clean up all those dead bodies it leaves in its wake. From Caitlin Johnstone at caitlinjohnstone.com:

Millions of people are uniting in demonstrations worldwide against our civilization’s ecocidal march toward extinction, which makes me so happy to see. It’s really encouraging to see so many young people burning with love for their planet and a hunger to reverse the damage that has been done to our ecosystem by the refusal of previous generations to turn away from our path of devastation. This must continue if we are to survive as a species.

The challenge now is the same perennial challenge which comes up every single time there is a massive and enthusiastic push from the public in a direction that is healthy: such movements always, without exception, become targeted for manipulation by establishment interests. I write all the time about how this has happened with the intrinsically healthy impulse of feminism; I just finished watching an MSNBC punditproclaim that anyone who still supports Bernie Sanders over Elizabeth Warren is a sexist. This corralling of healthy energy into the advancement of corrupt establishment interests happens with feminism, it happens with the healthy fight against racism and antisemitism, and of course it happens with environmentalism.

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The Pentagon Wants More Control Over the News. What Could Go Wrong? by Matt Taibbi

The biggest whoppers, the most egregious “fake news.” comes from governments, so when the powerful Pentagon takes an interest in combatting “fake news,” it’s a sure thing that the Defense Department isn’t after the truth. From Matt Taibbi at rollingstone.com:

If there’s a worse idea than the Pentagon becoming Editor-in-Chief of America, I can’t remember it. But we’re getting there:

From Bloomberg over Labor Day weekend:

Fake news and social media posts are such a threat to U.S. security that the Defense Department is launching a project to repel “large-scale, automated disinformation attacks,” as the top Republican in Congress blocks efforts to protect the integrity of elections.

One of the Pentagon’s most secretive agencies, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is developing “custom software that can unearth fakes hidden among more than 500,000 stories, photos, video and audio clips.”

Once upon a time, when progressives still reflexively distrusted the military, DARPA was a liberal punchline, known for helping invent the Internet but also for developing lunatic privacy-invading projects like LifeLog, a program to “gather in a single place just about everything an individual says, sees, or does.”

DARPA now is developing a semantic analysis program called “SemaFor” and an image analysis program called “MediFor,” ostensibly designed to prevent the use of fake images or text. The idea would be to develop these technologies to help private Internet providers sift through content.

It’s the latest in a string of stories about new methods of control over information flow that should, but for some reason do not, horrify every working journalist.

From the Senate dragging Internet providers to the Hill to demand strategies against the sowing of “discord,” to tales of hundreds of Facebook sites zapped for “coordinated inauthentic behavior” following advice by government-connected groups like the Atlantic Council, it’s been clear the future of the information landscape is going to involve elaborate new forms of algorithmic regulation.

Stories about the need for such technologies are always couched as responses to the “fake news” problem. Unfortunately, “fake news” is a poorly-defined, amorphous concept that the public has been trained to fear without really understanding.

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How Amazon and Silicon Valley Seduced the Pentagon, by James Bandler, Anjali Tsui and Doris Burke

Big Tech’s relationship with the Pentagon and intelligence agencies is the very definition of crony socialism. From James Bandler, Anjali Tsui and Doris Burke at propublica.org:

Tech moguls like Jeff Bezos and Eric Schmidt have gotten unprecedented access to the Pentagon. And one whistleblower who raised flags has paid the price.

From left: Eric Schmidt, the former chairman of Google’s parent company, James Mattis, the former secretary of defense, and Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon. (Nate Kitch, special to ProPublica)

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up for ProPublica’s Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox as soon as they are published.

This article was co-published with Fortune.

On Aug. 8, 2017, Roma Laster, a Pentagon employee responsible for policing conflicts of interest, emailed an urgent warning to the chief of staff of then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis. Several department employees had arranged for Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, to be sworn into an influential Pentagon advisory board despite the fact that, in the year since he’d been nominated, Bezos had never completed a required background check to obtain a security clearance.

Mattis was about to fly to the West Coast, where he would personally swear Bezos in at Amazon’s headquarters before moving on to meetings with executives from Google and Apple. Soon phone calls and emails began bouncing around the Pentagon. Security clearances are no trivial matter to defense officials; they exist to ensure that people with access to sensitive information aren’t, say, vulnerable to blackmail and don’t have conflicts of interest. Laster also contended that it was a “noteworthy exception” for Mattis to perform the ceremony. Secretaries of defense, she wrote, don’t hold swearing-in events.

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Assange Lawyer Reveals The Pentagon Was Behind Bringing Down WikiLeaks’ Assange, by Joe Martino

The Pentagon does not like its secrets disclosed. From Joe Martino at collective-evolution.com:

IN BRIEF

  • The Facts:One of Assange’s lawyers has confirmed that it was the Pentagon who was behind the smear and aggression to bring down Julian Assange, not the Obama admin.
  • Reflect On:Why does our government’s work so hard to protect secrets related to wrongdoing that no one supports? Why do we spend more time arguing over if Assange is right or wrong when we already know the actions of our governments are dreadful?

As free and open journalism remains under attack, a lawyer for WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange has confirmed that it’s the Pentagon, and not the White House or any other government agency whose secrets he has leaked, that has been pushing for years to smear and bring down Julian Assange.

Assange lawyer Geoffrey Robertson was granted a meeting with Obama administration insiders and had asked if they “really wanted” the publisher so they could access his whistleblowers and because he warned that “there are dangerous precedents here,” Robertson said they responded simply:

We don’t want him, but the Pentagon does, and the Pentagon may eventually get its way.

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More Police State Surveillance: Courtesy of the Pentagon, by Jeremiah Johnson

The Pentagon has a plan to use biometric verification to track and identify people from their smart phones. From Jeremiah Johnson at shtfplan.com:

There was an article by Joseph Marks of Nextgov published on 5/16/18 that was neither picked up by the larger news networks nor kept in view for long. The article is entitled The Pentagon Has a Big Plan to Solve Identity Verification in Two Years, and here is a portion of it:

The Defense Department is funding a project that officials say could revolutionize the way companies, federal agencies and the military itself verify that people are who they say they are and it could be available in most commercial smartphones within two years. The technology, which will be embedded in smartphones’ hardware, will analyze a variety of identifiers that are unique to an individual, such as the hand pressure and wrist tension when the person holds a smartphone and the person’s peculiar gait while walking, said Steve Wallace, technical director at the Defense Information Systems Agency.  Organizations that use the tool can combine those identifiers to give the phone holder a “risk score,” Wallace said. If the risk score is low enough, the organization can presume the person is who she says she is and grant her access to sensitive files on the phone or on a connected computer or grant her access to a secure facility. If the score’s too high, she’ll be locked out.

Amazing. The Pentagon’s technical director omitted much in his quest to act as if such actions are “government streamlining” and occurring matter-of-factly, in the interests of securing information for the government and its contractors.

The problem: if it’s in the software of all the commercial smartphones (the ones bought in the stores), that biometric data will be transmitted by all the phones, not just the contractors to the federal government.

We also know where this is heading. The government will back-door everyone’s cell phones and make tracking and surveillance even more ubiquitous than it is now, and that’s saying something. Read this portion:

Another identifier that will likely be built into the chips is a GPS tracker that will store encrypted information about a person’s movements, Wallace said. The verification tool would analyze historical information about a person’s locations and major, recent anomalies would raise the person’s risk score.  The tool would be separate from the GPS function used by mapping and exercise apps, he said. The tool does not include biometric information, such as a thumbprint or eye scans at this point, Wallace said, because DISA judged that existing commercial applications of biometric information are too easy to spoof.

To continue reading: More Police State Surveillance: Courtesy of the Pentagon

How the Pentagon Devours the Budget, Normalizing Budgetary Bloat, by William Hurting

The Pentagon has never been subjected to an audit, but Congress has passed two years worth of budgets that give it, and its contractors, huge increases over prior years, everything they could dream of…and more. From William Hartung at tomdispatch.com:

Imagine for a moment a scheme in which American taxpayers were taken to the cleaners to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars and there was barely a hint of criticism or outrage.  Imagine as well that the White House and a majority of the politicians in Washington, no matter the party, acquiesced in the arrangement.  In fact, the annual quest to boost Pentagon spending into the stratosphere regularly follows that very scenario, assisted by predictions of imminent doom from industry-funded hawks with a vested interest in increased military outlays.

Most Americans are probably aware that the Pentagon spends a lot of money, but it’s unlikely they grasp just how huge those sums really are.  All too often, astonishingly lavish military budgets are treated as if they were part of the natural order, like death or taxes.

The figures contained in the recent budget deal that kept Congress open, as well as in President Trump’s budget proposal for 2019, are a case in point: $700 billion for the Pentagon and related programs in 2018 and $716 billion the following year.  Remarkably, such numbers far exceeded even the Pentagon’s own expansive expectations.  According to Donald Trump, admittedly not the most reliable source in all cases, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis reportedly said, “Wow, I can’t believe we got everything we wanted” — a rare admission from the head of an organization whose only response to virtually any budget proposal is to ask for more.

The public reaction to such staggering Pentagon budget hikes was muted, to put it mildly. Unlike last year’s tax giveaway to the rich, throwing near-record amounts of tax dollars at the Department of Defense generated no visible public outrage.  Yet those tax cuts and Pentagon increases are closely related.  The Trump administration’s pairing of the two mimics the failed approach of President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s — only more so.  It’s a phenomenon I’ve termed “Reaganomics on steroids.”  Reagan’s approach yielded oceans of red ink and a severe weakening of the social safety net.  It also provoked such a strong pushback that he later backtracked by raising taxes and set the stage for sharp reductions in nuclear weapons.

To continue reading: How the Pentagon Devours the Budget, Normalizing Budgetary Bloat